On the menu today: Dianne Feinstein, Hunter Biden, and Eric Swalwell are all having a terrible week.
The Bad Week for Dianne Feinstein
For quite a while now, if you paid consistent attention to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), you would notice that she would make a statement, and then the next day insist she had never made that statement. Back in 2018, during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, I laid out cases where the octogenarian Feinstein had publicly doubted the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford and then later that day issued a statement that she found her credible, changed her explanation of why she hadn’t released a Judiciary Committee transcript, claimed to have been pressured on the decision and then insisted she had never said she was pressured, gave two contrary and opposing answers about a government shutdown, and then said she couldn’t remember why she had hesitated to share Ford’s letter. I noted a Republican senator once told me that it was easier to work with Feinstein herself than her staff; Feinstein would seem amenable in a meeting and then her staff would insist she hadn’t agreed to the discussed solution.
Lots of politicians are shameless liars — and that’s bad enough. But videos of Feinstein’s denials that she had said what she had said a day earlier raised the possibility of something even worse: She genuinely didn’t remember what she had said and done not long ago. We can simultaneously oppose Feinstein’s views, hate seeing her reach this condition, and fairly ask if Californians or anyone else were well-served by her remaining in office.
But if you discussed Feinstein’s memory problems too openly, you were accused of agism and sexism and partisan malevolence and God knows what else. Last night, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker more or less announced it was no longer socially and politically required to pretend not to notice Feinstein’s memory problems:
Many others familiar with Feinstein’s situation describe her as seriously struggling and say it has been evident for several years. Speaking on background, and with respect for her accomplished career, they say her short-term memory has grown so poor that she often forgets she has been briefed on a topic, accusing her staff of failing to do so just after they have. They describe Feinstein as forgetting what she has said and getting upset when she can’t keep up. One aide to another senator described what he called a “Kabuki” meeting in which Feinstein’s staff tried to steer her through a proposed piece of legislation that she protested was “just words” which “make no sense.” Feinstein’s staff has said that sometimes she seems herself, and other times unreachable. “The staff is in such a bad position,” a former Senate aide who still has business in Congress said. “They have to defend her and make her seem normal.”
. . . [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer had several serious and painful talks with Feinstein, according to well-informed sources. Overtures were also made to enlist the help of Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum. Feinstein, meanwhile, was surprised and upset by Schumer’s message. He had wanted her to step aside on her own terms, with her dignity intact, but “she wasn’t really all that aware of the extent to which she’d been compromised,” one well-informed Senate source told me. “It was hurtful and distressing to have it pointed out.” Compounding the problem, Feinstein seemed to forget about the conversations soon after they talked, so Schumer had to confront her again. “It was like Groundhog Day, but with the pain fresh each time.” Anyone who has tried to take the car keys away from an elderly relative knows how hard it can be, he said, adding that, in this case, “It wasn’t just about a car. It was about the U.S. Senate.”
The U.S. Senate is not supposed to be a nursing home.
The Bad Week for Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden is a deeply troubled man whose worst habits and instincts veered into criminal behavior, and who has been largely protected from the full consequences of his actions by his connection to his famous and powerful father. The evidence for this is abundant and longstanding. But if you said that too loudly before Election Day, you were accused of attacking the vice president’s family, being callous to the problems of addiction, and making “personal attacks on a candidate’s child.” (Hunter Biden turned 50 earlier this year.) When Joe Biden insisted his son was hired at Burisma because he was a “smart guy,” we were expected to simply accept and nod along to Biden’s psychological denial.
Now that Joe Biden has been elected president, apparently we are no longer socially and politically required to pretend that Hunter Biden is an upstanding, law-abiding citizen who has cleaned up his life and paid the price for his past bad decisions.
After going quiet in the months before the election, federal authorities are now actively investigating the business dealings of Hunter Biden, a person with knowledge of the probe said. His father, President-elect Joe Biden, is not implicated.
Now that the election is over, the investigation is entering a new phase. Federal prosecutors in Delaware, working with the IRS Criminal Investigation agency and the FBI, are taking overt steps such as issuing subpoenas and seeking interviews, the person with knowledge said. Activity in the investigation had gone covert in recent months due to Justice Department guidelines prohibiting overt actions that could affect an election, the person said.
In addition to Delaware, the securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances, according to the person with direct knowledge of the investigation. The person said that, as of early last year, investigators in Delaware and Washington were also probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
In addition to the probe into Hunter Biden, federal authorities in the Western District of Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved. Federal officials have asked questions about James Biden’s role in the business, according to a second person with direct knowledge of that investigation, who said it remains ongoing.
After the role Jim Comey and the FBI played in the 2016 election, it’s easy to see why law enforcement would want to avoid taking actions that could influence the outcome of an election. But learning after the election that a candidate’s family is under serious investigation for criminal acts does not feel like a significant improvement.
Speaking of FBI investigations . . .
The Bad Week for Eric Swalwell
Congressman Eric Swalwell is a giant waste of space. He is a trying-too-hard, gun-confiscation promoting, nuclear-strike-on-Americans endorsing, Biden-death speculating, white-man-who’s-running-to-increase-diversity congressman who was in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary for about ten minutes. He consistently polled at zero in surveys. He broke his promise to not run for Congress again. There are, er, noisy concerns about his role in uncontrolled methane emissions.
And now Axios is reporting that a Chinese national named Fang Fang or Christine Fang, a suspected Chinese spy, worked as a fundraiser for him and interacted with him until she left the country in 2015.
The best thing you can say about Swalwell is that after the FBI gave him a “defensive briefing,” he “immediately cut off all ties to Fang.” At this point, we don’t know if Swalwell had any reason to think Fang was a spy.
Apparently, Fang used sex as a tool to get closer to certain politicians. The Axios article did not say whether Swalwell and Fang ever did the horizontal mambo, and Swalwell refuses to say. Keep in mind, people generally do not withhold exculpatory information.
It is not against the law for a congressman to have sex with a Chinese spy if he doesn’t know she’s a foreign agent. But it sure as heck makes Swalwell look foolish and vulnerable to blackmail. Senator Marco Rubio makes the fair point that Swalwell will have to answer a lot of tough questions if he hopes to remain on the House Intelligence Committee after this. And “My opponent was literally in bed with Chinese intelligence” will make a hell of a good attack ad.
ADDENDUM: Nothing makes me cheerier these days than hearing from readers who enjoyed Hunting Four Horsemen. MFD — not to be mistaken for the Notorious MBD — writes:
This is the second novel in Geraghty’s Dangerous Clique series. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one as well. It has the same sort of witty dialogue, intriguing plot line, and and interesting scenes and characters. There were many lines that caused me to laugh out loud. The author knows his popular movie culture and uses that knowledge to make the novel a truly fun read. I was amazed at how quickly — and deftly — the author was able to write a story that so completely delves into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on every day life. One major criterion I use to evaluate a thriller is how quickly I’m able to figure out the conclusion. By that criterion, I give this book the highest rating: I didn’t figure it out until the author revealed it. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Read the book on a flight in November (first flight since early March), and it was, like the author’s first novel, a page turner. It was the perfect book to read between two historical non-fiction books. The settings, the dialogue, and the pop culture references all added to my enjoyment of the book. Definitely will read every novel Jim Geraghty writes.